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Friday, 01 May 2020

The Fifteen Best Villages, Cities & Towns in Provence - Page 3

Written by Russ Firlik & Emily Firlik
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Ménerbes

After driving through a massive Cedar forest we arrived at another impressive village, Ménerbes, with an ancient history and terrific views of the Coulon valley. Like most of these Provencal villages, Ménerbes is perched high up the Luberon’s north face. A nicely preserved 14th c church greets you as you enter the village square. The 13th century fortress has preserved part of its defenses with its corner towers. Also praised as “one of the ten most beautiful villages in France.”

 

Séguret

Séguret lies at the foot of a hill topped by the ruins of its feudal (13th c) chateau. It is one of the official "most beautiful villages in France", and absolutely deserves this distinction. As soon as you arrive, you are impressed by the charm of this village, with its typical Provencal atmosphere and medieval character. Parking was not an issue, but required a couple of hundred meters of walking to the village. As you stroll through the streets of the village, you begin to admire the historical treasures at each step: the Reynier gate, the 14th century belfry, the beautiful 10th century Saint-Denis church, the Rue des Poternes lined with ancient houses, and the Huguenots' gate, which still has its two ironbound wooden shutters.

From the church square, looking over the ramparts, we had a very nice view of the landscape surrounding the village; in particular our neighboring village of Sablet. We had coffee at Cote Terrasse with its splendid view.

Séguret is not just a fine place, it also produces an excellent "appellation controlee" wine: Côtes du Rhône Séguret. They are successfully continuing a wine-making tradition dating back several centuries.

This listed picturesque site is beautiful, well maintained, and has been tastefully restored... the only downside, I suspect, would be the hordes of tourists during the season; luckily, there were not many tourists visiting while we were there.

Séguret’s Top of the Chart Hits: (1). Sainte Thecle Chapel, (2). Reynier Gate (12th century), (3). 14th century Belfry, (4). 10th - 11th and 12th century Saint-Denis church, (5). Rue des Poternes, (6) Huguenots' Gate, (7) the Mascarons fountain (17th century).

Just another remarkable and quintessential Provencal village. Truly a top ten contender!

 

Crestet

A twenty minute drive from Sablet lies a little village, Crestet, (pop. 500) perched on the crest of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. We parked at the car park and climbed the many narrow steps onto the small lanes where we found many Renaissance houses beautifully restored with gorgeous honey colored limestone. A climb to the top revealed a castle dated from the 800’s with magnificent panoramic views of the mountains towards Mont Ventoux. A further walk around reveals the 11th century St. Sauven Church, and the 7th c Notre-Dame de Prebauon Chapel with their original frescos. Top this off with a fountain dating from the late 1700’s. Probably the most “perfect” Provencal village we have experienced.

The Abbey of St. Madeleine, nearby in Le Barroux, is a peaceful stop along the way. In this extraordinary traditional Benedictine monastery are 60 monks who live and work. The monastery has its own mill to produce olive oil. The monks produce lavender, wine, honey and bake their own bread. Their shop sold all the above - and the bread rolls were still warm from the oven. The monks offer spiritual retreats and have a hotel as well. 

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We had originally expected to visit between 35-40 villages/towns/cities in Provence, and had extensively researched everything that was significant to experience those 35-40.

The actual total of “officially visited” villages/towns/cities visited was 56 within those 61 days in France. Several villages/towns/cities were repeat visits, but were only counted as one visit.

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Note: these are not just pass through visits: To be an “Official Visit” we had to stop, park, and visit a historical or architectural site, go to a cafe or restaurant, or simply stroll in the peaceful loveliness of the villages or towns.


©Russ Firlik & Emily Firlik

Part one: Slow-Travel in Provence: The Farmers Markets, Wine Culture and the Special Village of Sablet was in our March-April issue.

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Last modified on Friday, 01 May 2020

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